I was going to split this up into two chapters, but since I already have it written, I may as well just post it as one long one :) I hope you enjoy! I put a lot of work into this chapter, and I really like it.
The walls were a creamy yellow color that made the room seem very bright, though the rain poured down outside the window. The neatly-made bed in the corner of the room was covered in a plain blue comforter. A lamp illuminated the room with soft pink light. There were two portraits along the wall—both of young, beautiful women.
Hermione’s body convulsed in a long shiver. Mark pointed his wand at her and murmured a drying spell that left her clothes and hair warm and dry.
“Thanks,” she said gratefully, watching as Mark dried his clothes as well. “What happened when we apparated here?”
“There are wards around here that only some can bypass,” Mark explained. “I am one of those people.”
“That’s just like at Malfoy Manor,” Hermione mused. “Wait a minute—we’re at Malfoy Manor, aren’t we?!”
Mark nodded sheepishly. “I live here, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else to apparate to.”
“What does the tattoo look like?” Hermione asked curiously, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
Mark cocked an eyebrow quizzically.
“Malfoy said there’s a tattoo on every Hunter’s wrist that allows you to apparate and disapparate here," explained Hermione. “What does it look like?”
Mark looked extremely taken aback. “He’s been very frank with you, hasn’t he?” He took a moment to relax and then rolled up his sleeve to reveal a small black M, barely the size of a penny, tattooed on the base of his wrist.
“M for Malfoy?” Hermione snorted, unable to believe the arrogance.
“Draco didn’t want anything tattooed on him that would cast suspicion were anyone to see it,” Mark explained, sitting beside Hermione. “An ‘M’ is easily explainable for him.”
“Interesting,” she murmured. “He’s been able to think of just about everything—I had him pegged as a moronic prat in school, but it seems like I misjudged him on that…”
“Him?” Mark burst out, startling Hermione, who jumped. “He didn’t think of anything! His more intelligent friends were the ones who came up with every good idea that you attribute to him.” Mark looked the most agitated that Hermione had seen him so far.
“Who are his friends?” Hermione pressed, aware that she had hit a nerve. Her brown eyes locked on his, desperately willing him to tell her something that she could use against them.
“If it’d been him making all the decisions, the Hunters wouldn’t have lasted one—”
Mark’s rant was cut off as a knock sounded on the door, followed by the door being opened.
Draco Malfoy walked into the room, dressed in an expensive-looking black suit. He was examining the cuffs of his sleeves as he spoke without looking up.
“I’m leaving to go to the Ministry for a publicity event—benefit for St. Mungo’s, or whatever you signed me up for. We’re very close to locating the Surrey Slasher—he’s definitely a wizard from the area. Oh, and Daniel got hit with a rather nasty curse and he needs you to—” Malfoy finally looked up. “What in bloody hell is she doing here?!”
Mark put his arm around Hermione protectively, his fingers tight on her right arm. “As I discussed with you this morning, Draco,” he said softly and dangerously, “I rather enjoy Hermione’s company, and I will have the privilege of meeting her wherever I wish.”
Malfoy’s face went slightly pink. “I need to leave, as does she,” he bit out, clearly attempting to keep his tongue in check, but Hermione couldn’t figure out why he would bother. Did he fear Mark? “You’re supposed to be at this benefit, aren’t you, Granger?”
Mark’s fingers tightened a fraction more, his grip becoming almost bruising.
Hermione opened her mouth to reply that she wasn’t, but Malfoy gave her a curt shake of the head that seemed like a warning. “I—yes, because I also made a donation,” she said to Mark, now gritting her teeth to keep from wincing at the pain Mark was unwittingly causing her.
“Hermione, I have plans for you tonight,” Mark said softly, looking at her, a glint in his eye that seemed almost menacing.
Behind Mark, Malfoy mouthed “NO.” Unlike Mark, his expression wasn’t hard to read. His eyes flashed a warning while his mouth was a hard line. He was worried and angry.
Mark, in contrast, was staring at her with eyes that promised danger if she didn’t do what he wanted.
“I’m really sorry, Mark,” Hermione apologized, going with her hunch that there was something wrong with Mark right now—as strange as it seemed, Malfoy seemed like the safest option. “I promised my friend that I would go tonight—he’ll miss me if I’m not there.”
“Are you wearing that?” Mark said skeptically, veiled anger in his voice. “I’ll take you home so that you can change.”
Hermione was saved from answering by Malfoy, who cut in nonchalantly, “I’ll have your dress sent here—you don’t have enough time to go back and change.”
Mark stood up, pulling Hermione with him by the firm grasp he still had on her arm. He and Malfoy stood eye to eye, though Mark was slightly shorter than Malfoy. Malfoy fixed his calm grey eyes on Mark’s hazel ones, which shone with frustrated anger.
Hermione let out an involuntary whimper as Mark’s grip on her arm reached a painful crescendo. Malfoy and Mark broke their visual standoff to look at her. Hermione tried to pull her arm away.
“Oh, I’m so very sorry, Hermione,” Mark apologized, releasing her arm immediately.
“It’s fine,” Hermione said shakily, taking an unconscious step towards Malfoy. It seemed incredible, but her senses were telling her that Malfoy was the safer choice at the moment.
“I’ll show you to a room where you can change,” Malfoy said commandingly, placing a hand on Hermione’s shoulder and steering her out of the room. “You’re so helpless,” he growled as he led her out the door and a few rooms down, which Hermione recognized to be his room. “You keep getting yourself into these impossible situations—what is wrong with you?”
Hermione refused to look him in the eye, even as he slammed the door shut behind him and muttered a locking charm. Malfoy put a finger under her chin until her eyes met his.
“It was Mark,” she said suddenly. “He was the one who killed my cat, wasn’t he?”
Malfoy nodded and stepped away from her. He went to his closet and rummaged around for a few moments until he drew out a deep purple dress. “Here, you can wear this,” he said, laying it out on the bed.
“I’m not actually going to this thing,” Hermione said, folding her arms across her chest.
“You have to,” Malfoy replied. “Mark will know—you can bet he’ll have someone there to check.”
“Why should I be afraid of him?” said Hermione stubbornly—after the day’s events, the last thing she wanted to do was go to an expensive benefit wearing Malfoy’s clothes. “And why do you have women’s clothes in your room?”
Malfoy turned a chair around and straddled it backwards. “The clothes are my mother’s,” he replied coldly, an electric spark of sadness flickering across his features. Some warmth returned to his voice, however, as he continued. “And you should be afraid of Mark because he’s a very dangerous person—even more dangerous than me. He’s killed over—did he do that?”
Malfoy’s eyes were focused directly on Hermione’s right arm, which showed very clear fingerprint bruises. Hermione followed his gaze and gasped. “I had no idea he was holding me that hard,” she said. She pulled out her wand to heal the bruises, but before she could do so, Malfoy pointed his wand at her arm and healed them instantly. “Thanks,” she muttered.
“You should get dressed, or we’ll be late,” Malfoy said brusquely, as if making up for being nice.
“What part of ‘I’m not going’ do you not understand?!” Hermione snapped, standing up abruptly, her wand gripped firmly in her hand.
Malfoy hissed for her to be quiet as a hard knock sounded on the door. He strode over to the door and called, “What?”
“It’s me,” replied Mark’s voice. “Is Hermione in there?”
Hermione looked at Malfoy, wide-eyed. She had half a mind to reveal her presence to Mark, but the ache in her arm told her otherwise.
“She’s changing,” Malfoy answered, his eyes boring into Hermione’s.
She got to her feet immediately and waved her wand silently. The air between them solidified and become opaque, providing an effective way for her to change in privacy.
“Hermione, I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry we had to cut our conversation short—perhaps we can get together tomorrow sometime? Or the next day?”
Hermione peeked over the top of the barrier, her mouth open to reply with an emphatic “No,” but Malfoy shook his head and mouthed, “Say yes.”
He looked intensely serious, and Hermione reflected upon the fact that as of yet, Malfoy hadn’t hurt her. She went with her gut and called out, “I’d love to.”
“Lovely,” said Mark warmly. His footsteps were softer and softer as he walked away.
“Why am I seeing him again if he’s so dangerous?” Hermione bit out as she stepped into the dress that Malfoy had laid out for her. It was too long for her, so she used her wand to magically alter the material.
“Because he can’t know that anything is wrong or he’ll kill you,” growled Malfoy. “You need to fool him into thinking that you have no intention or possibility of arresting the Hunters.”
Hermione looked down at her black boots and transfigured them into shoes that matched the dress. She put her wand on the inside of her thigh, whispering a spell to keep it in place. When everything looked satisfactory, she stepped out from behind the barrier, which shimmered and vanished.
“How do I know that this isn’t some plan that you and Mark cooked up to scare me into keeping quiet?”
“You don’t,” admitted Malfoy, looking her up and down expressionlessly. “But you stand the greatest chance of surviving if you do as I say. Quite frankly, I have the utmost confidence in the fact that you will be unable to arrest me for a long time. Mark isn’t so sure. You clean up nice, Granger.”
Hermione glared at him before looking down at herself self-consciously. The deep purple formal dress fit her perfectly, thanks to the alterations. It went to just above her knees, revealing tanned, toned legs. Her breasts fit well in the v-neck of the dress, and the short, ruffled sleeves showed off her slender arms. The black heels she was wearing accentuated her delicate ankles.
“How about this?” Malfoy said, sighing. “If you allow me to escort you to the benefit tonight, I’ll do my best to get Mark off of your back and we can go back to never seeing each other.”
“Why do you want me to go with you to the benefit?” Hermione asked skeptically, thinking it over.
“Because while you may not believe it, Mark is very dangerous—if you don’t go tonight, you’ll be in even worse danger,” Malfoy replied. He got to his feet and held out his arm.
“Why do you care if I’m in danger?”
“Self preservation, as always. If you show up dead, I’m the first suspect. Plus, if you are with me, it might discourage some of the lonely women who insist on stalking me at such events.”
Hermione looked at Malfoy’s arm as if it was a live snake.
“Do you think I would hurt you?” Malfoy asked quietly.
Hermione looked him up and down, drinking in his presence with every sense she had. She heard the gentle sound of his breathing as he awaited her answer. She saw his fine, black suit with its silver cuff links in the shape of the Malfoy crest. She smelled the alluring scent of his cologne. Her memory flew back to certain events that had occurred recently. Malfoy had saved her from the killer in the alley; he had tried to warn her about Mark; he had caught her very gently in his arms when she’d passed out in his drawing room.
“No,” she admitted, placing her small hand in his.
Malfoy said, “Hold tight,” and turned in a circle, pulling them into disapparition. Just like the previous time, the wards against apparition tried to pull her away from Malfoy and nearly succeeded, but Malfoy threw his other arm around her to keep her from being separated.
They reappeared in an office. Malfoy let go of her.
“Where are we?” Hermione asked, looking around.
“In my office at the Ministry,” Malfoy replied, walking towards the door. “It’s just an elevator ride away from the benefit. It wouldn’t be very classy to apparate there.”
“What office?” Hermione asked as she followed him out the door.
“I'm on the board of trustees for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” answered Malfoy as they walked into the elevator. “It’s just a title. The Ministry likes the money I give to them.”
Hermione’s jaw dropped. She said nothing until the elevator opened on the fifth floor.
“It’s in here,” Malfoy said, pushing open the door to room 502.
Room 502, which was ordinarily left vacant unless used for occasions like these, was decorated lavishly in gold and black decorations. A banner across the back wall read, “St. Mungo’s Appreciates Your Donations.” A table laden with refreshments sat below it. Most of the people were in the center of the room, dancing to a cheerful tune being played by the band.
Before Hermione could absorb more of her surroundings than that, a short, plump man dressed in an ill-fitting tuxedo hurried up to them.
“Names?” he squawked, his voice so high-pitched that Hermione fought the urge to wince.
“Malfoy,” snapped Malfoy imperiously, clearly not appreciating the man’s voice either.
“Excellent! And who is she?”
“She’s not on the list,” Malfoy replied before Hermione could say anything. “But it’ll be well worth your while to put her on it.” He slipped a pouch heavy with galleons into the man’s pocket.
The little man raised his eyebrows, pulled a quill out of his pocket, and whispered, “Name?”
“Hermione Granger,” Malfoy said, pulling Hermione with him as they walked away.
“Mr. Malfoy, is it true that you donated 100,000 galleons to St. Mungo’s for their new Spell Damage wing?” said a woman with a quill and paper who slipped in between Hermione and Malfoy.
“Yes,” Malfoy said curtly, easing away from the woman. “No interviews tonight, please.”
Hermione lost Malfoy in the throng of people that formed around the handsome, rich bachelor. She remembered her promise to stay near him, but she didn’t relish the idea of pushing through the crowd to approach him. Plus, she was still uneasy over her feelings towards him. She didn’t necessarily hate him anymore…maybe.
“Hermione!” called a cheerful voice.
Hermione turned to see Gary waving her over.
She made her way over to him, smiling brightly. “Hey, Gary!”
Gary hugged her enthusiastically. “I’ve never seen you, well, dressed like a girl before,” he said awkwardly as he pulled away. “You look good.”
Hermione gave him a small smile.
“What Harry did wasn’t cool,” Gary said, leaning close to whisper in her ear. His gangly form made it somewhat of an awkward position. “Me and a few others agree with you, at least about Ractor. We’ve compiled this for you.” He reached for Hermione’s hand and pressed a small, silver cube into it. “Say ‘Revelio’ and you’ll be able to view the information recorded on it.”
“Thanks,” Hermione whispered, incredibly touched by this gesture. She tucked it carefully in her bra, as she had no pockets.
“Drink, ma’am?” asked a smartly-dressed waiter.
“Yes, please,” she replied, taking a glass from his tray. She took a sip, wincing at the strong flavor. “What is this?”
“Straight vodka, from the looks of it,” Malfoy said smoothly, coming up behind her. “You’re supposed to drink it all at once.”
Gary glared daggers at Malfoy, who merely gave him a contemptuous glance in return.
“These women are making me crazy, Granger,” Malfoy said icily. “Come dance with me.”
“Her name’s Hermione, Mr. Malfoy,” Gary said, his mouth contorted in an uncharacteristic frown. “If you want her to dance with you, you should ask nicely.”
Hermione downed the rest of the vodka shot in preparation for the ordeal that was sure to come.
Malfoy frowned and sighed impressively. “Hermione, would you do me the honor of gracing me with a dance?” His voice was absolutely dripping with sarcasm, but his eyes seemed to be dancing with mirth.
Hermione grinned. “Certainly, Draco.”
Malfoy grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the dance floor. He took the empty shot glass from her hand and handed it to a passing waiter. The music began playing a slow waltz and Hermione found it easy enough to follow the steps.
“So, you prefer the company of a muggleborn to all those lovely women lusting after you?” she asked, whirling around the dance floor in time with the music. Malfoy was an excellent dancer, both graceful and sure of his footing.
“I’ve had enough of their kind to last me a lifetime,” he muttered. His hands on her body were in the perfect position for the waltz, not an inch above or below what was proper. The music continued and the pair danced, oblivious to the eyes upon them and the flashing of photographs being taken. “I seem to have made quite an impression on your friend back there.”
“He’s an Auror,” Hermione explained. “He’s on my side, not yours.”
“Everyone can be bought,” Malfoy said smugly.
“And Ractor? How much did you buy him for?”
“Ah ah ah, I can’t be revealing too much to you, or before I know it you’ll be clapping me in irons,” Malfoy said, smirking.
The song ended and Hermione moved away from Malfoy delicately. He kissed her hand, as was proper for the end of such a dance.
“I’ll be back,” he told her. Hermione watched him disappear into the crowd and went to find Gary. She found him over by the bar, drinking a beer and flirting with the female bartender.
“Oy!” Gary laughed as Hermione came up. “How was your dance with his royal majesty?”
“Shut up,” she laughed in reply, punching him lightly on the shoulder.
“Here,” Gary said, pushing a drink towards her. “I just discovered these, they’re fantastic.”
Hermione took a look at the orange drink. She giggled. “Even I know what a screwdriver is, Gary—have you really never had one?”
“No,” he protested. “There’s something in it that’s different… Try it!”
Hermione noticed with a smile that he was slurring his words. She suspected that the bartender’s beauty probably had something to do with the fact that Gary kept ordering more drinks. She took a tentative sip of the sparkling orange drink. A rush of coolness flooded through her body, replaced by heat a moment later. It had a minty aftertaste. “Wow.”
“I know! Marisa, can I get another one of those?” Gary asked, hailing the pretty bartender over.
Marisa glided over, a smile on her plump lips. “Here you go, Gar.”
Gary blushed and downed the drink in three large gulps. “Come on, Hermione. Drink yours!”
Hermione sighed and slowly but steadily drank the rest of her drink.
“Yeah!” cheered Gary.
Hermione jumped as she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around to see Malfoy behind her, two glasses in his hand.
“Wine?” he asked, handing her a glass.
“Thanks,” Hermione said, her face feeling very warm. She took a sip of the red wine as she watched Gary escort a young woman over to the dance floor.
“Are you all right?” he asked, looking at her closely. “You look flushed.”
“I’m fine,” she said, waving her hand carelessly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Malfoy rolled his eyes. He was about to reply, but a slender redhead eased between him and Hermione. “Hello, Draco,” she said alluringly, her gold dress clinging to a beautiful body. “I’ve been trying to find you all evening—Mark told me you’d be here.”
“Lorelei,” Malfoy murmured, kissing her hand. His face was a mask that revealed nothing of his feelings towards seeing her.
Lorelei giggled and threw her arms around his neck, whispering hotly in his ear, “Come dance with me.”
Hermione watched the two, wondering blithely if she should break them apart as part of her duty to Malfoy, but as her head spun, she decided against it. Lorelei pulled Malfoy towards the dancers, a bright smile on her entrancing face. Malfoy looked much less enthused, however.
As she watched Malfoy dance with Lorelei, she could feel the effects of the alcohol begin to sink in. Her body felt light and tingly, and she felt very warm. Malfoy looked very striking in his suit, and he moved with Lorelei in time with the music.
A man began walking towards Hermione, and a cold jolt went through the girl as she realized that it was Mark Williams. Malfoy continued dancing with his partner, his back to Hermione. Lorelei watched over his shoulder, a smug smile on her lips.
“Hermione, I must say that I’m surprised to see you here,” Mark admitted, leaning against the bar counter beside her.
Hermione wished she hadn’t had anything to drink—a clear head would be very helpful just now. “Why?” she asked, doing her best to keep the tension from her voice. She wanted to kill this man who had killed her cat, but she could do nothing in a room full of people.
“This doesn’t seem like the kind of event that you’d attend willingly,” Mark said easily, signaling for the bartender to bring him a drink. “You seem more down-to-earth than the people here.”
“I’m here with my friend Gary,” Hermione said immediately, the lie coming quickly to her lips. She pressed her legs together to quell her nervousness, feeling the reassuring texture of her wand against her inner thigh. “He asked me to come with him.”
“How very kind of you to accompany him,” Mark praised her, smiling. “Would you join me for a dance?”
Hermione nodded, swallowing back her dizziness. As she left the comforting support of the bar top, she felt herself stumbling. Mark steadied her and she was forced to use him for support. She had definitely had too much to drink. What had been in that orange drink??
“I should have known,” sneered Malfoy as Mark and Hermione approached him. “Lorelei’s never without you, is she?”
Lorelei let go of Malfoy and walked over to Mark, kissing him on the cheek.
“Family ties are strong,” Mark laughed, gesturing to his sister.
Lorelei looked at Hermione in derision, raising a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “Some girls just don’t know their limit on alcohol.”
Through the drunken haze, Hermione discerned that she was being insulted. “Some girls don’t know what size to get and end up with a dress that’s too small,” she retorted, pleased that she managed not to slur her words.
Lorelei gasped and shot Hermione a glare, but Malfoy’s lips curved into a genuine smile. Hermione found herself warmed by his smile—it was one of the few she’d ever seen from him, and definitely the first that had been directed at her.
“Well, Hermione, I’d say it’s time for a dance,” Mark said as the band began playing another song.
Emboldened by both the alcohol and the fact that Malfoy had smiled at her, Hermione pushed Mark’s hands away from her forcefully. She stood on her own, ignoring the spinning in her head as she looked directly at Mark and burst out angrily, “I know exactly what you are, so you don’t even need to pretend anymore, Mark!”
Mark stared at her, dumbfounded at this outburst. Malfoy’s mouth nearly fell open with shock. He stepped quickly behind Hermione and covered her mouth with his hand. “Clearly she’s had a bit too much to—Ouch!” He cried out in pain as she bit his hand.
“I know that you’re just testing me to see if I’m a danger to your pathetic mob,” Hermione hissed, shoving Malfoy’s hand away. “Well, guess what? I’m the most dangerous bloody thing to ever happen to the Hunters, so you better watch your back—and if you ever come near me again, I’ll curse you into oblivion! Got it?!”
Mark’s hazel eyes flashed with anger, and Lorelei looked equally furious. The two of them faced Malfoy and Hermione in a strange standoff.
“We’re in the middle of a public place,” Lorelei hissed, her eyes darting from side to side. People were beginning to stare. She pulled her brother’s hand away from his pocketed wand, glaring furiously at Hermione.
“He told you that I was testing you, didn’t he?” Mark asked dangerously, his eyes flicking to Malfoy and then back to Hermione.
“Yes,” replied Hermione defiantly. She felt incredibly dizzy from the alcohol, but she was proud of herself for finally stopping all the pretension. She was done pretending to like Mark, no matter what Malfoy said.
A well-dressed man in his early forties walked over to the four and put his hand on Mark’s shoulder. “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to—”
Mark turned on the spot, drawing his wand on the man. As the man fell to the floor, twitching, people began screaming.
Hermione slid her hand up her thigh to grab her wand, but she knew that she would be unable to aim at Mark in time—his mouth was already forming the curse that he had chosen to use on her.
Flames burst from the end of Mark’s black wand, accompanied by a hideous roar.
The jaws of the fiery chimaera opened wide, ready to engulf Hermione, but strong arms encircled her and dragged her into apparition.
That was Fiendfyre, in case the description of it wasn't enough for you to tell =] Hope you liked the VERY long chapter! I'd love it if you could leave me a review with your opinions on where the story's going! Thanks, guys =]
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